New Research Finds That The Future Of Osteoarthritis Treatment Could Come From Your Nasal Cells

Be Inspired

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Osteoarthritis is ‘the most common form of arthritis. Some people call it degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis.’

But a new study shares that a cure for osteoarthritis could be closer than you think. In fact, it could be found at the end of your nose! Strange as it sounds, but that’s because the research found that nasal cells have the ability to relieve chronic inflammation in the knees.

Osteoarthritis affects 8.5 million people in the UK, while 54.4 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with some sort of arthritis.

In this new study, co-lead author, Professor Ivan Martin from the Basel University in Switzerland shares how these nasal cells, which he describes as “amazing,” actually ‘originate from embryonic brain and spinal cord tissue,’ and are also called the neuroectoderm.

He shared, “Unlike the cartilage tissue in the joints, these cartilage cells originate from precursor cells of the neuroectoderm. They therefore have a distinct regenerative and adaptive capacity—or plasticity. Tissue grown from nasal cartilage cells seems also to retain these special properties.”

Tissue cartilage, which is the cartilage that cushions the joints’ surface, doesn’t have the same capacity – or very little for that matter – as other tissues in the body to grow back.

But because of these new clinical studies, they are showing that the cartilage cells found in the nasal septum, which is the partition in between the nostrils that divides them, could actually help combat this chronic disease.

Plastic and orthopedic surgeons gathered tissue samples from the nasal canals of two patients, which they cultivated in the lab. They then used the samples to grow a layer of cartilage, which was later on implanted into the knee joint. Both volunteers were considered to be young, and both were diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis because of a misalignment of their leg bone. Because of this, they also both are facing the probability of requiring entire knee prosthesis in the future.


Renewed Hope

After the implantation of the engineered cartilage, both patients shared that they had reduced pain, as well as reporting a better quality of life.

In addition, the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans also showed that the bones in the knee of one of the participants were now further apart than before, which is an indication that the joint is in recovery. Meanwhile, the other volunteer was only assessed in an interview because of the pandemic, and could not be assessed physically.

The researchers also shared that the bones of both volunteers could be corrected surgically, which also means that whatever is causing their osteoarthritis could be removed or eliminated. They are also quite confident that the patients will no longer require knee joint prosthesis later on, or at least for a prolonged period of time.

Professor Martin also shared, “Our results have enabled us to lay the biological foundation for a therapy, and are cautiously optimistic.”

While other types of knee trauma caused by falls or sports injuries tend to heal completely, patients with osteoarthritic knees tend to have consistent and persistent inflammatory reactions, which is linked to chronic pain.

“First we had to test whether the cartilage replacement was attacked and degenerated by the inflammatory factors,” said Professor Martin.

The international team first tested the human cartilage tissue ‘in the presence of inflammatory factors.’ These particular experiments were tested out on mice and on different models of the disease.

Professor Martin also added, “First we had to test whether the cartilage replacement was attacked and degenerated by the inflammatory factors.” Moreover, the tissue durability was also tested under inflammation and stress in sheep.

The team took cartilage cells from the animals’ nose and transplanted it on their osteoarthritic knee joints. Not only did the tissue prove to be incredibly robust, it also showed the ability to counteract the inflammatory responses.

In further analysis, this effect was found to be caused by chemicals associated with and because of osteoarthritis, which is also called the WNT signaling pathway.

This study was published in the Science Translational Medicine journal, also found that the effect was further improved due to the appearance of the nasal cartilage cells.


What Next? 

Because of the positive outcome of the research, in-depth clinical trials using this same methods of patellofemoral osteoarthritis are currently being planned out. This is when the articular cartilage wears out, which allows the bones to end up rubbing against each other, causing intense pain.

The research team also aim to develops more methods for other types of osteoarthritis, as well as to able to treat a wider range of patients suffering from similar types of arthritis.

This nose-to-knee cartilage transplant was pioneered over a decade ago in at least nine patients, all of which had suffered a variety of injuries, falls and other types of accidents. The transplants were done after experiments on goats proved successful. But this is the first time that the treatment was used for treatment of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis affects over 300 million people globally, and usually happens when the protective cartilage covers and buffers the ends of the bones that tend to wear down as time goes on and people age.

While osteoarthritis is known to damage any joint, it’s more common in the hands, knees, hips and the spine. Symptoms of osteoarthritis are usually manageable, but usually any damage to the joints cannot be reversed.

One major preventive is by maintaining a healthy weight, remaining active, as well as doing particular treatments that can help slow down the progression of this disease, as well as improve the joint function and lessen the pain that normally comes along with it.